Tag Archives: referenda

Rejoice for Australia! But referendums on social issues must not be the new normal

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The majority of Australians have backed equal marriage in a postal vote survey: 61.5% of Aussies endorsed the rights of LGBT+ citizens. It is now over to the Australian parliament to implement the will of the people.

LGBT+ Aussies and allies rejoice after a deserved victory. But it is sad that this referendum had to happen at all.

I realise that to most, holding the referendum was just sensible politics and a civilised means to settle a debate in a democracy. But this vote really was petty: someone’s private relationship is neither a political or democratic concern. It’s not something to be deliberated on by the masses; you’re dealing with people’s profound personal identities and relationships – things that are fundamental to their lives.  Someone’s basic right to exist as themselves in society is not another ‘issue of the day’.

It is completely mad that an anonymous same-sex couple living somewhere in Australia who want to get married had to consult the entire voting population of the country.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 11 Comments

Referenda need not offer binary choices

It might well be that the United Kingdom, or its successor rump state of England and Wales, will be relying on the skills of the New Zealand’s trade negotiators to help shape the Brexit agreement with the EU. Amusingly, these might be the same people who are also representing  New Zealand and Australia in areas where those two countries collaborate to reach common terms with the post-EU British / English-Welsh state.

That’s a mouthful of a paragraph because it’s a mind-blowing idea, or should be.

But it would unlikely to have become reality had it been thought about before the Brexit referendum.

Unfortunately, we have somehow got it into our heads that referenda are binary, yes / no questions.

But they needn’t be.

And we could have learned that lesson from New Zealand before forcing many people to choose between the status quo and an option that was, really, many options, none even remotely defined.

Last year and this, New Zealanders voted in two referenda designed to address one issue: to keep the current flag or replace it with a different design.

In developing the question to be put to the electorate, prime Minister John Key, his advisors and the parliamentary committee tasked with establishing the rules under which the referendum would happen realised that a simple yes / no option along the lines of “would you like to replace the current flag of New Zealand with a new design?” might well have resulted in a yes vote. There would then have followed a lengthy period of bitter argument about what the resulting flag should look like, at the end of which a significant percentage of the population who had voted for change might well have ended up wishing after seeing the new flag that they had voted, instead, to keep the current one.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments

In praise of…New Zealand’s referenda culture

This summer, the global news media was not at all rocked to its foundations by news of New Zealand’s forthcoming referendum on a national flag.  The centre-right National Party led by John Key is in the middle of a (possibly misjudged) bid for centre-ground opinion by pursuing a symbolic rebranding of the nation. In a country with a complex colonial legacy, this is arguably opening a can of worms – but maybe a necessary one.

I’m in no position to assess the relative merits of the many flag proposals, but I am intrigued by the process. A long-list will be …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

Opinion: What the Liberal Democrats can learn about democracy from the people of Ireland

I cannot be alone amongst Liberal Democrats, after the general election result we have just been through, in questioning the collected wisdom of the UK electorate.

Fortunately, as an Irishman, my faith in the collective wisdom of the people has been dramatically restored by the result of the equal marriage referendum in Ireland, as my people lustily endorsed equality, and cast off the comfort of bigotry to which it is easy to resort in times of economic strife.

But, just as Ireland becoming the first country on earth to enshrine this type of equality into the law by popular vote will, I hope, act as a beacon for other states around Europe and the world to follow a similar path, I hope that the Liberal Democrats also manage to learn the lessons from Ireland’s result.

Of course, the Liberal Democrats have much of which to be proud in these matters, being the driving force behind the introduction of marriage equality in the UK.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 27 Comments

Opinion: The reason an EU Referendum is a bad idea is one that no politician dare utter

European Union flagWe are constantly told that we “need” a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. Here’s the thing: we don’t. We don’t actually need a referendum on anything just now. Referenda are, in general, actually a bad idea.

They are vital every once in a while: the vote happening in Scotland on September 18th of this year is a good example. The government of Scotland is made up of nationalists who want to make Scotland an independent country. To legislate directly for this would be unthinkable, so …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 63 Comments
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